ORLANDO, Fla. — On his first offensive possession Sunday as a member of the Orlando Magic, hours after signing his first professional contract, Victor Oladipo wasn’t thinking in terms of shooting first.
His deference to his teammates might have been understandable, considering he was the only starter for the Magic’s entry in the Orlando Pro Summer League not to be a member of team during the 2012-13 NBA season. But as far as the four of them were concerned, this was no time to be shy.
“Credit my teammates because they were the ones who told me to shoot the first shot,” said Oladipo, the second pick in the draft less than two weeks ago who had more of a reputation as a defensive stopper than a 3-point marksman in college. “I wasn’t going to shoot it. And they were, ‘Shoot it, shoot it, shoot it.’ So I just kind of let it fly.”
The shot found the bottom of the net. And the Magic would like to believe they’ve found someone to build their franchise around — regardless of whether you call him a point guard, a shooting guard, or a combination of the two.
For the record, Oladipo scored all but four of his 18 points in the first half and added seven assists, six rebounds and five steals in 33 minutes as the Magic posted a 95-88 victory on the practice court at the Amway Center over a Boston Celtics squad composed almost entirely of rookies and free agents. It must also be pointed out that he turned the ball over six times, a statistic that invoked memories of his shaky assists-to-turnovers ratio the past three years at Indiana.
But before signing him to a contract that’s guaranteed for the first three years and will reportedly pay him more than $4.75 million as a rookie, the Magic knew Oladipo’s crash course on the fine points of running an offense and being a better ball-handler would include some dings and dents.
“I’m just going to continue to listen to the coaching staff and listen to my teammates because they’ve been through it,” he said. “I’m learning every day. I’m trying to put it all in the membrane up here.”
That brain, as well as more than a bit of brawn, has created quite a first impression in less than a week on Oladipo’s new teammates and coaches.
“He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever seen,” said center Kyle O’Quinn, a second-round pick by the Magic last year. “He comes early and leaves late. That’s typical with a hard worker, but for him to go No. 2 in the draft, you couldn’t be able to tell. He carries himself like he wants to get to the top. And he wants to get there fast.”
“He can make shots, whether he’s at the one or the two,” added assistant coach James Borrego, who is in charge of the summer league team. “He can drive it, whether he’s at the one or the two. And in today’s NBA game, those point guards that you see aren’t natural point guards. They didn’t grow up as a typical one and now they’re playing one throughout their entire career.”
Oladipo was paired in the starting backcourt with Doron Lamb, who came to the Magic from the Milwaukee Bucks in a February trade that also netted them forward Tobias Harris. While Harris was not in uniform Sunday after banging one of his knees in practice, the Magic were still able to open with Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson — both of whom were first-round selections last summer — at the forward spots and O’Quinn at center.
Lamb frequently brought the ball upcourt when he and Oladipo were on the floor together in the fourth quarter. Asked afterward if he would describe placing Oladipo at the point as an experiment, Borrego replied, “I wouldn’t call it an experiment. I call it, ‘Let’s see what we have.’ ”
“I did a pretty good job of playing through my mistakes,” Oladipo said. “And you’ve got to keep growing so I don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. They’re patient with me, but sometimes I’m not patient with myself.”
Whatever shortcomings he had paled in comparison to those of Nicholson, who missed all but one of his nine field-goal attempts and was also whistled for seven personal fouls in a league where a no foul-out rule exists.
Oladipo was a bright spot, as was Romero Osby, the forward whom the Magic chose in the second round. Osby tied Oladipo for team-high scoring honors, going 7 of 8 from the floor and 4 of 5 from the free-throw line.